Three Thoughts After Magic’s 104-94 Loss to Jazz

Orlando let an 18-point lead slip away as Deron Williams took control in the fourth quarter as Utah’s zone defense stifled Orlando. The Jazz completed an improbable Florida sweep after erasing a 22-point deficit and winning in overtime last night in Miami. An impressive win for Utah. A somewhat disheartening loss for Orlando.

The Offense is Becoming a Problem

As good as the defense is, it cannot win on its own. And Orlando’s offensive and shooting woes is eventually going to cost it games. Tonight, it did as the Magic could not make a basket when they needed to. Orlando shot a horrid 43 percent from the floor and committed 21 turnovers. Not good numbers. But unfortunately part of a trend in this early season.

Even with offensive troubles, Orlando still pulled out to an 18-point lead, a true testament to how good its defense is and how long it can survive with a poor offense. Utah outscored Orlando 69-49 in the second half as Orlando struggled to crack Utah’s zone defense. For the game, the Magic had an offensive rating of 103.0 according to the Advanced Stat Calculator and 101.1 according to HoopData which is not so bad. But eventually when Orlando’s offensive rebounding dried up, Dwight Howard was smothered and the team settled for early shots.

Dwight Howard had a season-low 14 points and Vince Carter did a lot of the offensive heavy lifting with 20 points, needing to hit eight of 17 shots to get there. Ryan Anderson was a non-factor and looked completely overmatched by Andrei Kirilenko in the first half. Brandon Bass came in and picked up the slack, but no one else really came off the bench and helped. With Howard and Rashard Lewis struggling, it was just too much for guys like Carter and Jameer Nelson (19 points, 5-12 FGs in his return to the lineup).

Utah slapped a zone on Orlando, relying on the post presence of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Kyrylo Fesenko to keep Howard at bay and hoping Orlando would continue to hoist 3-pointers and miss. The strategy worked.

Howard committed six turnovers and a 31.8 percent turnover rate (if the math from Pick and Scroll’s Advanced Stat Calculator is right). Hoop Data had his turnover rate at 26.3 percent. Not good. Either way, Howard shot five for eight from the field but only four of 11 from the free throw line. His usage rate 

It left Orlando depending on outside shooting. The Magic hit 12 of its 32 3-pointers. The Magic took only 31 shots inside 10 feet according to Hoop Data. When you are not hitting 3-pointers, that is not a good sign.

Defense Lets Magic Down

In the past when the offense struggles, Orlando relied on its defense to get stops. For one half, Orlando was able to do that. The Magic built an 18-point lead on the strength of its defense.

But when all was said and done, the defense did not have a good night, giving up 100 points for the first time all season.

The Jazz scored 62 points in the second half in winning their third game in a row after trailing by more than 15 points. Orlando finished with a 111.8 defensive rating. And that is not good any way you cut it.

Dwight Howard was out of the game in foul trouble during the third quarter as the Jazz made their run and made a game of it. He had nine rebounds and three blocks in dominating the paint as he typically does. But with him out, Deron Williams, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson had their free reign.

Williams dished out 14 assists. Jefferson, always very efficient in the post, scored 21 points with a lot of it coming against Howard. Paul Millsap followed his 46-point game with 23 points tonight. And, oh yeah, Williams had 30 points to go with his large amount of assists.

Utah is a very very tough team. The motion offense gave the Magic problems and Williams, once again, picked them apart.

Chalk it up as a rare occurrence where the Magic defense struggled.

Brandon Bass Should Feel Comfortable

Ryan Anderson got the nod as the starter, but played only a minute and a half. He seemed completely overmatched by Andrei Kirilenko, committing two turnovers in that short span. Luckily for Orlando, Brandon Bass came in and continued to produce. He looks a lot more comfortable in the offense and a big contributor on both ends.

Bass scored 14 points (the bench had 25 tonight). He shot five for 10, but he is more willing to work in the offense and gives Orlando the size it wants inside. Bass had three offensive rebounds, continuing to show his willingness to work and get Orlando extra possessions.

With Rashard Lewis continuing to struggle (16 points on 6-of-15 shooting), Bass is sliding in very comfortably as currently the team’s top power forward. It has been very encouraging to see Orlando experiment successfully with a traditional power forward and to see Bass find his place on this team.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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